10 most likely to be traded – Relievers

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Huston Street (Rockies) – Street appeared to be a lock to go a few
weeks ago, and it seemed likely that the Rockies wouldn’t even wait
until the deadline before making a move. However, their recent surge,
combined with the loss of former closer Manny Corpas, is going to make
trading him much more difficult. At the very least, it figures to go
down to the deadline now. Street’s value is sky high at the moment
thanks to 16 saves in 17 opportunities and a 35/9 K/BB ratio in 31
innings. Odds are that it will only drop as time goes on. Even if
Street remains this effective, there won’t be as much demand after the
year, since he’ll probably make $7 million or so next season in what
will be his final year before free agency.

Chad Qualls (Diamondbacks) – While he’s avoided the DL, Qualls has
experienced some forearm issues of late that have taken a toll on his
ERA. He’ll need to get past those if the Diamondbacks are going to
receive the kind of offer that would make it worth moving their closer.
Qualls is under control through 2010, and his modest price tag will
make him quite attractive. If he finishes with 30 saves this year, his
salary could jump to $5 million or so next year, but he’d be in line
for less if he’s relegated to a setup role with a contender.

Danys Baez (Orioles) – It seemed highly unlikely a few months ago,
when Baez tried and failed to crack the Baltimore rotation, but he’s
finally earning his salary in the final season of his three-year, $19
million contract with the Orioles. The league has hit just .183 off the
right-hander, allowing him to amass a 3.22 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. He’s
more of a seventh-inning guy than a true shutdown setup man, but he
figures to come cheaper than most of the other relievers on this list.

George Sherrill (Orioles) – Sherrill has allowed just one run in 18
appearances since sort of losing his job a month into the year (the
Orioles indicated that they were going to a committee, but it never
materialized). He now has a 2.20 ERA, and he’s 15-for-17 in save
chances. It looked like the Orioles blew it last year when they failed
to sell high on Sherrill and then watched him struggle and lose most of
his trade value after a poor second half. They could always do it
again, but they do have more depth now and they should be able to
better cover his loss.

Takashi Saito (Red Sox) – The Red Sox have a surplus of relievers,
and Saito hasn’t pitched as well as his 2.59 ERA in 24 1/3 innings
indicates, though he has improved considerably over the last month.
Making a deal tricky is that his salary is due to keep growing. It’s
currently at $3.5 million, and he could guarantee himself as much as
$7.5 million if he remains healthy all season. Even the Red Sox don’t
want to commit that much to their fourth- or fifth-best reliever.

Rafael Betancourt (Indians) – Kerry Wood figures to stay, but the
Indians should move Betancourt, who had lowered his ERA to 3.71 before
landing on the DL with a groin strain at the beginning of the month.
He’s due to return in early July, giving him a few weeks to rebuild his
value. The Indians probably won’t ask for much in return if it means
shedding the rest of his $3.35 million salary.

LaTroy Hawkins (Astros) – The Astros probably won’t write off the
season — which means fellow free-agent-to-be Jose Valverde is likely
to stay — but if they see the opportunity to trade Hawkins for
immediate help, they could take it. Since joining Houston, Hawkins has
a 1.92 ERA in 51 2/3 innings. American League teams will want to stay
far, far away.

Renyel Pinto (Marlins) – Pinto’s ERA stands at 2.31, but he hasn’t
gotten there by retiring lefties (.308 average against) and Dan Meyer
has supplanted him as the top southpaw in Florida’s pen. That he’ll be
arbitration eligible for the first time this winter only adds to the
chances that he’ll be moved, though at $1 million or so, he’s hardly
set to break the bank.

Cla Meredith (Padres) – The Padres could get a whole lot in return
for Heath Bell, but he’ll be reasonably inexpensive for another year.
Meredith, on the other hand, has just about outlived his usefulness
with arbitration eligibility on the way. He has a 2.89 ERA this season,
but it comes with a 1.57 WHIP and 14 strikeouts in 28 innings. The
Padres no longer use him with leads, as evidenced by the fact that he
hasn’t picked up a hold since April 16. His ability to induce grounders
would be of more use in a smaller park.

Ron Villone (Nationals) – The Washington pen, so brutal for two
months, suddenly has Mike MacDougal, Villone, Joe Beimel and Julian
Tavarez all throwing well. Of course, no one from the group can be
counted on for the long haul. Three of the four will be eligible for
free agency at season’s end, and MacDougal, who is making $2.65 million
this year under the terms of his deal with the White Sox, would be
costly to keep in arbitration if he remains effective. The Nationals
should deal one or two of the veterans of the group if decent prospects
are offered, and the two lefties are the most likely to go.

Kyle Lohse is throwing for interested teams today

Kyle Lohse
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Free agent starter Kyle Lohse is throwing for interested teams at the University of California, Irvine, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports.

Lohse, 37, remains unsigned into baseball’s second month on the heels of last season’s 5.85 ERA and 108/43 K/BB ratio over 152 1/3 innings. Although Lohse was quite good in the four seasons prior, teams are understandably reluctant to bank on pitchers in their late-30’s.

The Orioles, Tigers, and Reds have had reported interest in Lohse in recent months.

Majestic Athletic employees will protest at Coca-Cola Park on Friday

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 10: Kris Bryant (L) of the Chicago Cubs and Anthony Rizzo #44 pose for a photo with their All Star jersey's before the game against the Chicago White Sox on July 10, 2015 at  Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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Anthony Salamone of the Morning Call reports that Majestic Athletic employees plan to protest at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA on Friday night. The employees are protesting Majestic’s owner VF Corporation’s attempt to undercut wages and medical benefits. VF Corporation acquired Majestic in February 2007.

Coca-Cola Park is home to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Majestic has manufacturing facilities in Easton, PA, which is less than a half-hour from Coca-Cola Park. The IronPigs, as well as all 30 Major League Baseball teams, wear uniforms manufactured by Majestic.

Corporations affiliated with Major League Baseball taking advantage of employees isn’t anything new. Last year, when protests over police violence disrupted the Orioles’ schedule, some employees with the Orioles and Aramark almost lost out on multiple days of pay.

Eddie Perez likely to be Braves’ interim manager if Fredi Gonzalez is fired

Atlanta Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, left, stands with manager Fredi Gonzalez during a spring training baseball workout, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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There’s been a lot of rumbling that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez will soon get the pink slip. His team is 7-20 entering Thursday’s action. Historically, front offices — particularly those of rebuilding/restructuring teams — respond to that by making coaching and/or managerial changes.

Per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, bullpen coach Eddie Perez is likely to fill in as the Braves’ manager on an interim basis if and when Gonzalez is fired. Perez has been with the Braves as a coach since 2007. He played for the Braves in 10 out of his 11 seasons from 1995-2005. Perez wasn’t known for his bat, but was respected for the way he called games and handled the Braves’ then-elite pitching staff.

Bowman notes that Gonzalez isn’t expected to be fired over the weekend. If the team plays well, that could extend Gonzalez’s leash, so to speak.

First baseman Freddie Freeman issued a vote of confidence for his skipper, saying, “I think everything is getting magnified since we’re off to this start. I don’t know if it’s fair to put it all on [Gonzalez] because he’s not a player. We’re the 25 guys [who have to] go out there and play every day. We’re obviously not playing to our capabilities. To say that’s Fredi’s fault is unfair in my opinion.”

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

Chicago Cubs' Anthony Rizzo, left, and Kris Bryant celebrate a 7-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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The Phillies and Cardinals got started a little early, finishing up their four-game series on Thursday afternoon. In the evening, we have 10 games on our slate, including Cubs-Nationals.

The Cubs have jumped out to a 20-6 start, looking like baseball’s best — and scariest — team. Entering Thursday’s action, the Cubs have a +93 run differential (runs scored minus runs allowed). That’s by far the best in baseball. The next best are the Nationals at +50, the Mets at +44, and the Cardinals at +41. In fact, the Cubs’ run differential is so good that they have under-performed relative to their expected won-lost record of 22-4.

This is without Kyle Schwarber. This is with Jason Heyward hitting a miserable .211/.317/.256, Jorge Soler hitting .185/.276/.292, and Addison Russell hitting .224/.356/.329. It’s with John Lackey pitching to a 4.32 ERA.

What makes the Cubs so good? They’re on-base machines. The club’s aggregate .364 on-base percentage is second best in the majors behind the Pirates. Dexter Fowler has an outstanding .470 OBP and Anthony Rizzo is at an elite .403. In fact, of their regulars with 100-plus plate appearances, Heyward is the only one with a sub-.350 OBP. The league average is .319. The Cubs steal bases, too, as they’re 17-for-24 (~71 percent) in that department.

The Cubs have baseball’s best pitching staff, which has yielded a major league-best 2.54 runs per game. Only four teams are below 3.00 runs allowed per game. Of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta is the big contributor to that with a sterling 0.84 ERA, but Jon Lester has put up a 1.58 mark and Jason Hammel 1.24. Closer Hector Rondon has found himself in only four save situations but has converted each of them with an even 1.00 ERA and a 15/0 K/BB ratio in nine innings. The Cubs’ aggregate bullpen ERA of 2.66 is fifth-best in the majors.

It’s too early to use defensive statistics with any degree of certainty, but even the eye test shows the Cubs to be elite defenders at the important positions, particularly shortstop (Russell), right field (Heyward), and third base (Kris Bryant).

The Cubs’ success isn’t exactly surprising. The club rode five consecutive fifth-place finishes into some high draft picks and that talent is starting to establish itself in the majors. Whether it was fans, writers, or Vegas oddsmakers, the Cubs were preseason darlings.

Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs opposite the Nationals’ Joe Ross at Wrigley Field tonight at 8:05 PM EDT.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Michael Fulmer) @ Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Masahiro Tanaka) @ Baltimore Orioles (Kevin Gausman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Derek Holland) @ Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Miami Marlins (Adam Conley), 7:10 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Chase Anderson) @ Cincinnati Reds (Alfredo Simon), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Henry Owens) @ Chicago White Sox (Erik Johnson), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Wade Miley) @ Houston Astros (Chris Devenski), 8:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) @ San Diego Padres (Colin Rea), 10:10 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Chris Rusin) @ San Francisco Giants (Matt Cain), 10:15 PM EDT